Cave rescue honours: Bathurst's Matt Irvine behind push

CALL FOR AWARD: Adelaide anaesthetist and underwater cave explorer Richard "Harry" Harris risked his own life to make the treacherous journey to the underground chamber where the group of 13 had been trapped for two weeks.

CALL FOR AWARD: Adelaide anaesthetist and underwater cave explorer Richard "Harry" Harris risked his own life to make the treacherous journey to the underground chamber where the group of 13 had been trapped for two weeks.

IT started as nothing more than an idea, but Matthew Irvine’s petition via change.org to award Dr Richard Harris and Craig Challen, the Australian heroes behind the Thai cave rescue, with Australia’s highest civilian award for bravery has gone viral with close to 35,000 people supporting the idea.

Mr Irvine posted the change.org petition on his own Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon, saying he was just “acting on an idea … let’s see what we can make happen”.

Within 24 hours the post had gone viral, and Sydney and Melbourne media are queuing up to interview Mr Irvine about the idea.

“Honestly, it was a thought bubble,” Mr Irvine said on Friday.

“But it clearly resonates with people, as it’s garnering incredible levels of support online and generating considerable mainstream media interest.”

In the online petition to foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, Mr Irvine said he and the world watched as 12 young lads and their football coach were rescued in a complex operation in Thailand.

“Australian Medic, Dr Richard Harris, repeatedly risked his own life undertaking many dives during the rescue operation. By his side during the entire time was his long-time dive partner, Craig Challen,” he said.

Mr Irvine said the Australian Honours System recognises “acts of conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme peril”, by way of awarding the Cross of Valour, or CV.

He said while calls have been made to honour the pair with Australian of the Year, he felt the Cross of Valour was more appropriate.

“It’s a civilian version of the military Victoria Cross. The CV has only been awarded five times since inception, in 1975,” he said.